The evolution of animation is nothing short of extraordinary. Its growth into long-form television series has allowed animation to become something rather unimaginable. Particularly remarkable are animated sci-fi shows that have allowed the other-worldly imaginations of their creators to be brought to life in full trippy glory. Here are some of the best animated TV series in the sci-fi genre for the next time you hit your beaker bong.
Best Animated Sci-fi TV Series
Over a hundred years ago, the world was treated to Émile Cohl’s “Fantasmagorie” (or “The Fantasy”). It served as the world’s first traditional animation as well as one of the trippiest pieces of art ever created. One that reads like an early stick-figure draft of the “pink elephants” sequence from Disney’s Dumbo.
For a genre that started out so strong, one might be inclined to think it was all downhill from there. Yet, somehow, animation remains one of the best genres to indulge in, especially while stoned.
Arcane is steampunk heaven. It is based on the multiplayer online battle game, League of Legends. As such, it features the popular characters introduced in the game. Except in this version, the characters battle it out themselves in a virtual game that requires an extreme level of skill. A level that allows each player to exercise their unique gifts in novel ways.
While there is plenty to love about Arcane, what makes it s showstopper is that it offers an exciting glimpse into the future of the animated TV series in the sci-fi genre. The visuals in Arcane are easily some of the best the genre has ever delivered. Its use of various art styles to tell each individual story in stunning visual detail is unparalleled. And the only thing that can elevate the experience is watching it while high.
Love Death + Robots (2019)
When the future of animation is the topic of conversation, Love Death + Robots inevitably finds its way in. The adult animated anthology series is an ode to animation itself. Each episode offers a unique animation style while also tackling a unique storyline. As such, this multi-genre show manages to traverse a wonderfully wide range of topics and emotions. And it does so while taking its viewers on a marvelous visual journey unlike any other.
Bad Batch (2021)
An ever-expanding franchise, Star Wars has certainly offered as many gems as it has duds. But with Bad Batch, it evidently struck gold.
The show is centered around a ragtag group of misfits, more specifically, a “bad batch” of clones. Their individual idiosyncrasies make them uniquely gifted and a thorn in the side of the Empire.
The group was originally introduced in The Clone Wars (2020) and became a fan favorite. The show offers stunning visuals and a superb blend of compelling storylines and sci-fi action. It also features Dee Bradley Baker, whose body of work as a voice actor includes Avatar: The Last Airbender, SpongeBob SquarePants, Phineas and Ferb, Space Jam, and much more. In Bad Batch, he voices nearly all the characters. And somehow, he manages to create a distinct vocal performance for each one.
Star Wars: Visions (2021)
Speaking of the expanded universe, the Star Wars franchise has also delivered “Visions,” an anthology series filled with original stories set in the larger Star Wars universe.
An impressive feat, Visions was crafted to remain loyal to the themes of the canon. But it also offered each director and production studio that worked on the project total creative freedom. As such, this series breathes fresh life into the franchise while still keeping its original spirit intact.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002)
Ghost in the Shell began as a manga, later adapted into an anime film in 1995. The movie would go on to inspire the sci-fi genre, paving the way for genre-defining works like The Matrix franchise.
A modern retelling of the animated series “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and a continuation of the 2006 film “Solid State Society” titled “SAC_2045” was dropped in 2020, to rather discouraging reviews. Some of these were directed at the show’s lack of depth and complexity. Others had just as much to say about its animation. Suffice it to say, the show split audiences. What didn’t leave quite as much of a rift in its wake was the show’s predecessor.
Like the rest of the franchise, SAC (2002) follows Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team of elite covert operatives. Together, they interrogate cases pertaining to cybercrime and terrorism. With its cyberpunk influences set in a futuristic world, everything in the franchise is a treat for sci-fi lovers. But what makes this specific offering so special is its ability to weave philosophical and sociopolitical commentary into the fabric of the show. And its gorgeous animation enabled it to do so in subtle yet gripping ways. While watching it totally sober can already make for a trippy experience, there is something unique about indulging in Ghost in the Shell when blazed.
Pacific Rim: The Black (2021)
Pacific Rim began as a film franchise with the first movie in 2013. It centered on a kaiju-ravaged world that required humanity to come together. Their efforts yielded Jaegers, colossal mechas that could rival the might of the monsters. Often regarded as an homage to anime, Pacific Rim was one of the few anime-inspired movies to feature a fresh storyline and new characters to root for.
Unfortunately, the second installment, “Uprising” (2018), did not earn nearly as much praise. The animated sci-fi TV series, however, has managed to bring the fandom back in.
The Black follows two siblings who spend their days in a peaceful Australian settlement. When their discovery of a Jaeger prompts a kaiju attack, they make the choice to leave their home. They soon embark on a quest to find their missing parents, running into friends and foes along the way.
The series brings the franchise back to its roots as an anime-inspired story. It also expands on the universe and offering some gorgeous anime-style action to go with it.
Ergo Proxy (2006)
In a post-apocalyptic world, humans and androids have achieved peaceful coexistence. But this apparent utopia comes crumbling down when a virus gives the androids self-awareness, resulting in a series of heinous murders.
Inspector Re-l Mayer is soon assigned to crack the case alongside her android partner. Along the way, however, she uncovers far more than she bargained for.
Ergo Proxy, despite its age, offers animation that still holds up to this day. With visual elements that blend some traditional styles with 3D CGI, it often feels like something out of the Blade Runner franchise. Yet, it has its own unique look. As opposed to the smooth fluid animation of some of its contemporaries, Ergo Proxy opts for a harsher style. One that suits its thematic elements, such as nature versus nurture and identity, perfectly.
Transformers Prime (2010)
The Transformers franchise began in the ‘80s as a toy line of transforming mecha robots, later expanding to an animated series, before finally spawning the 2007 Michael Bay movie and the subsequent releases that followed.
The franchise has seen highs and lows, particularly within Bay’s cinematic universe. But a standout has been Transformers Prime, an animated show that premiered in 2010 with several of the film franchise cast and crew reprising their roles.
The series follows a team of Autobots led by Prime who, aided by three children who accidentally witness one of their battles with the Decepticons, attempt to protect the Earth from attacks.
While the show does not necessarily expand on the universe or add any new plots into the mix, it does offer some stunning animation alongside stellar vocal performances.
Voltron: Legendary Defender (2016)
In another world, energy called “quintessence” powers everything from vehicles to magic. A battle rages on between the Galra Empire and the Paladins of Voltron, the latter being a giant robot formed by smaller units piloted by teenagers from Earth.
An extension of the original Voltron lore, this series features a mix of styles including anime-inspired traditional animation and modern CGI. It’s a visual treat, naturally, but is also a wonderfully engaging sci-fi adventure.
Rick and Morty (2013)
This list would, naturally, be incomplete without the inclusion of Rick and Morty, the quintessential animated TV series in the sci-fi genre made for stoners.
Eccentric sociopath Rick and his naive grandson Morty spend their days oscillating between everyday life and interdimensional adventures. The blend of pop-culture references and black comedy makes this show an absolute riot. But its animation certainly adds to its charm. Throw some weed into the mix and you’ve got yourself the perfect cocktail.
In a Galaxy Far, Far away…
Much of science fiction, modern or of a time long past, has grappled with the idea of a world not unlike ours yet different in every way. Whether this is a world filled with androids and colossal mecha robots or one ravaged by kaiju, or one of intergalactic adventures or battles waged in the recesses of the dark web, sci fi is hard to resist. What makes the genre so enthralling, beyond its jaw-dropping visuals, is its ability to weave philosophical themes into each tale.
While this animated TV series sci-fi genre list is by no means exhaustive, it does offer a sample of what is out there, no matter what style you prefer!
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